21 May 2014

What’s wrong with our national security policy?

Lt Gen S. S. Mehta

SIXTYSEVEN years into Independence and despite four wars, including a humiliating defeat in 1962; matched by a consummate victory over Pakistan in 1971; the Kargil intrusion, the Mumbai terrorist attack, scores of insurgent and internal security movements, India remains cocooned in a yawning void between promise and delivery. If one thought India has had enough time to put the building blocks for a sound national security policy into place, one would be disappointed. On this critical issue, we remain vague and incongruous. On the contrary, it would seem that there is an inexplicable disconnect in policy makers’ minds about the linkages between National Security and National Defence.

National security is an inclusive concept. It demands political savvy, economic security, soft and hard power, focused development and growth of human and material resources and public understanding and support. In contrast, national defence has a narrower meaning. Defence relates to sovereignty, territorial integrity, capability to contain internal disorder, respond to man-made and natural calamities, and have the synergised political will and broad-spectrum capability to undertake multifarious international obligations; even the odd intervention if that becomes necessary in supreme national interest.

Security vs Defence

Security and defence are therefore not interchangeable. Security incorporates defence. Collectively they stand for National Security and both must co-exist. Kautilya in his seminal treatise on statecraft — Arthashastra, warned us around 2,000 years ago that national security challenges to a state demand of it both expertise and force development to successfully face the threats that it may be subjected to. He identified four such threats: The external threat externally abetted, the external threat internally abetted, the internal threat externally abetted and the internal threat internally abetted. Today we face all of them in varying degrees. Yet, a Comprehensive National Security Policy has not been articulated. Even if it does exist in some form, its application on ground is incoherent if not headless. It appears after each episodic disaster we face as a nation that we have learnt no lessons from the past, nor is there continuity of responses that could mitigate the sufferings that follow from such events.

Rebalancing the Strategic Affairs Post 16 May 2014

IssueNet Edition| Date : 20 May , 2014

Narendra Modi has won a landslide victory in the general elections of 2014. The political pundits call it a titanic shift in Indian politics. The verdict of May 16, 2014 is overwhelmingly in favour for development amongst the other issues. It is important to read the mood of the nation. People of India have bestowed their faith in the right wing national party, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). People of India have made Modi the most powerful Prime Minister since independence this country has ever seen.

It will not be incorrect to say that the self-pride of the nation had taken a severe beating under the miss rule of congress. The puppet prime minister was seen relenting to the hegemony of our belligerent neighbours. The general psych of the country had been bruised and injured. This factor worked very well in favour of the BJP’s strong man.

Modi is left with no choice but to propel India into a steady growth if he wants to play along innings. He will have to expand friendly relations with all countries to the maximum extent possible – political/ strategic; economic/ commercial and defence.

So what is the meaning of this general mood prevailing? How will the thirst of development coupled with national pride be quenched? The answer to this question lies hidden in Narendra Modi’s speech at Vadodra on the May 16, 2014.

He in his address had highlighted the fact, that in 2016 the Prime Minister of India will be a person, born in free India unlike those previous to him, who had seen the colonial rule. A simple statement of fact has a very deep meaning as I understand. To my reasoning it implies a fundamental shift in the country’s policies which have dominated the Indian scene for the past 67 years. It would mean a departure from the ideals drawn by our founding fathers on the eve of our independence in 1947. No longer shall we be the prisoners of Nehruvian ideology. An ideology by virtue of which, India has practiced isolationism. Unfortunately though, it was a matter of deliberate policy choice.

The post Indira Gandhi era witnessed India gravitating away from insularity and the economic reforms of 1990. This was seen as a major shift towards the inter-connected world. Insularity was no more a viable option. The reality and imperative of inter-dependence though over-whelming has failed the Indian establishment to evolve in these changing times. Sadly enough the idea got lost somewhere in the labyrinths of the North and the South block. All the while since the nineties, the energies of successive government were channelized towards saving their coalitions. In this shemozzle India’s policies on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Trade and Commerce were stagnated to stink.

As these political parties jostled for their piece of cake in the collation era, the Indians were dreaming for a better life. Their desires had moved far away from the occasional doles showered upon them by the rulers. Today he was connected to the world through the internet and could see the world changing around him. The age of information fuelled the hunger for more and more.

Examining a Modi Foreign Policy

May 19, 2014

Change is in the air in Indian politics, with Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate of the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed toward leading India's next government. His administration will replace the longest-serving Indian government since 1977 and will-unusually for India-be led by an individual who has been chief minister of a state for nearly a dozen years. With the BJP having won a majority on its own, it will be able to form the first non-Congress-party non-coalition government in India's history. What change might this bring in Indian foreign policy? First and foremost, it is important to say that there is a lot we don't know. There is a better sense of Modi's priorities and preferences when it comes to economic policy, but not as much known about his foreign policy preferences. This is complicated by the fact that who will form his core national security and foreign policy team-the national security advisor, as well as the political and bureaucratic leaderships in the foreign, defense, home and finance ministries-is not yet known.

The structural and ideological basis of Indian foreign policy and the existence of a permanent bureaucracy mean that there will be continuity in many areas, but there is likely to be change on a few fronts. Modi is likely to double down on the theme of foreign policy as foreign economic policy, with India's economic imperatives driving its international interactions. Diplomats might be expected to serve as force multipliers for Indian economic policy rather than business serving such a function for Indian foreign policy. There is also a possibility of institutional reform of India's foreign, energy and trade policymaking apparatus-something Modi has discussed-though the feasibility of this is unknown. There has been talk of capacity increases, bringing in outside experts to a greater extent, as well as institutional reorganization. In addition, it'll be interesting to see whether and how Modi brings in the states and the diaspora into his foreign policy approach - also something he has talked about on a number of occasions. Furthermore, there might be specific changes in India's relationships with particular partners, for example, a new Indian government might bring relations with Israel more out into the open.

Why India’s political earthquake is the most significant turning point of 2014

May 19, 2014, 4:51am

GENOA – I find myself in this predictably beautiful Italian city, about to visit the house of Christopher Columbus. Like most American schoolchildren, I remember finding the fact that Columbus discovered the new world by mistake uproariously funny, as the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” literally bumped into the Americas, sitting annoyingly in the way of his attempt to find a quicker trade route to the East. When I questioned my wise father about this, he merely replied, “Let’s be glad the ship sailed”.

Well, in India, Narendra Modi’s ship has well and truly set sail as the country’s election results have come in, leaving the leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP the undisputed master of the subcontinent’s politics. Modi is on course to win around 336 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s parliament, an absolute majority and an increase of a whopping 195.

In contrast, the centre-left Congress Party – which has governed India for 55 of the 67 years the country has been independent – is set to return only 59 to parliament, a decline of 175 seats, and easily the party’s worst showing ever. This is a result well in excess of the BJP’s wildest dreams, and Congress’s worst nightmares, leaving Modi the first Indian leader to be able to form a single party government since 1984. This amounts to nothing less than a revolution, a political sea change for the most populous democracy on earth, with huge promise for the world’s investors.

Neatly, Modi’s to-do list mirrors the very reasons Congress was so shunned. First, the outgoing government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never managed to get a handle on corruption, a fact that has enraged average Indians over the past decade. Malfeasance involving the sale of billions of dollars worth of natural resources – it is estimated that politicians and officials took bribes worth between $4bn and $12bn during Congress’s tenure – has poisoned Indian politics, hampering its putative economic miracle.

The ascetic, scrupulously honest Modi has campaigned as a man fully capable of cleaning the Augean Stables; if he is to remain popular and further his economic programme, he must crack down on corruption, and quickly.

Secondly, and befitting India’s very odd fusion of feudalism and democracy, the Congress elites in New Delhi under Singh never bothered telling the Indian people what they were doing; it is no wonder a sense of drift quickly set in. Incredibly, in the decade he has been in charge, Singh gave just three full press conferences. A media-savvy Modi, having just run the most effective political campaign in India’s history, must renew the link of the governing with the governed if India is to fulfil its beguiling economic prospects.

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind: Changed Political Outlook?

20 May 2014

Ayesha Khanyari
Research Assistant, IReS, IPCS 
Email: ayesha.khanyari@gmail.com

At the New Delhi chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), Ameer-e-Jamaat Maulana Jalaluddin Omari, the central head of the JIH, recently said, ‘‘The Jamaat is committed to upholding the values of democracy, secularism and the principles of the Indian Constitution. We are against the parties which oppose diversity. The very language of cultural assimilation is a threat to the spirit of our Constitution.’’

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is a major Islamic organisation formed in undivided India by Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi in 1941. In the seventy years of its existence the JI has undergone several changes; after Partition, the Jamaat was trifurcated into Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) and Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir (JIK). In 1974, a unit in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was also established. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami developed from the Jamaat wing in then-East Pakistan and is the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh today.

JIH: Moving Away from its Roots?
The JIP and JIH shared some concerns initially, but the discourse and rhetoric shaped by the different environments they were placed in have now set them wide apart.

The Jamaat had its emergence in the period prior to the partition of the Indian sub-continent when contesting visions of nationhood emerged. Amongst Muslim theorists of the sub-continent, Jamaat leader Maudoodi represented a third strand that denounced both the composite nationalism framework of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Muslim nationalism of the Muslim League. He held that the idea of territorial nationalism was antithetical to the ideal Islamic state. 

In Pakistan, Maudoodi and JIP were successful in the establishment of an Islamic nation. The 1951 provincial elections brought JIP into Pakistan’s mainstream political discourse. The JIP went on to emerge as a major political party in Pakistan.
In India, the Jamaat transformed itself into a cultural organisation devoted to addressing the growing influences of securalism and communalism. It set up networks of educational institutions - both schools and colleges. The JIH had no electoral compulsions and thus kept its members from taking part in elections.The Jamaat’s main aim was the establishment of Hukumat-e-Ilahiya, an Islamic state. Maudoodi was against secular democracy and obligated Muslims to boycott elections as he described democracy as an anti-Islamic political system.

BCIM and BIMSTEC: Two Competing Initiatives for Northeast India?

20 May 2014

Leonora Juergens
Research Intern, IPCS 
Email: leonora.juergens@gmail.com

In June 2014, the second meeting of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) forum for economic cooperation will be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The idea of a BCIM economic corridor was primarily initiated by the 'Kunming Initiative' to establish bilateral trade and investment along the old Southern Silk Road, linking the Bay of Bengal with India's Northeastern Region (NER), Bangladesh and Myanmar to Southwest China through the deeper integration of its constituent economies.

Likewise, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) aims to build a sub-regional economic bloc as a part of India’s Look East Policy (LEP), linking the NER to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Economic cooperation in the geographically contiguous sub-region should have positive welfare implications particularly for the NER's economies through expanded legal trade, infrastructural connectivity and greater people-to-people contact.

However, with BIMSTEC's slow performance on the inconclusive Free Trade Agreement (FTA), New Delhi seems to attach increasing importance to the development of the BCIM corridor and has re-emphasised its readiness for closer economic cooperation with Beijing at the sixth India-China Strategic Dialogue in April 2014. This indicates a shift in India's foreign policy agenda away from the NER towards Kolkata and the Bay of Bengal as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

BCIM and BIMSTEC: Two Competitors in NER’s Development?

Once the BCIM corridor is established, it will combine India, China and the ASEAN Free Trade Area, comprising 7.3 per cent of the global GDP, thus granting India significant economic outreach to China through easy market access along its Northeastern borders. An important aspect of the corridor in this regard was the 3,000-km Car Rally in February 2013 via Kolkata, Dhaka, Imphal and Mandalay to Kunming, which initially strengthened the notion that the BCIM would subsequently open up the NER to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province – and thereby to greater economic development. However a closer look at the geographical map shows that except for Manipur and Tripura, the corridor largely bypasses the NER, thus pushing its importance as a strategic centre for sub-regional development to the periphery. Instead, Yunnan as the most developed region in the cluster due to Chinese investments in Myanmar and Bangladesh, has a strong economic and political influence in the sub-region, and has moved to the fore of the BCIM.

India's Sinophobia prevents it from taking a proactive stance in a multilateral BCIM-FTA. China's claim on Arunachal Pradesh and its support of insurgency movements through drug trafficking and the supply of small arms are seen as critical in this regard. On the other hand, China's interest in the BCIM-FTA serves as an incentive to solve its border issues with India and can be utilised as a stabilising force. Tripura and Manipur for example would welcome Chinese investments in their rubber- and bamboo-based industries, while Assam has continuously made a strong plea for the re-opening of the Stilwell Road to Kunming.

Statehood Demands in India’s Northeast: Is Bodoland Justifiable?

20 May 2014

Ruhee Neog
Senior Research Officer, IPCS 
Email: ruhee.neog@ipcs.org

As anticipated, the creation of Telangana has had a destabilising domino effect on the rest of India. The most recent of these is the demand for a separate Bodoland to be carved out of Assam, which has intensified since the government announced its plans for Telangana in October 2013.

While such petitions normally fall on deaf ears, this time around the government has had to sit up and listen - it is election year and the agitations in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) show no signs of abating. In February 2014, therefore, an expert committee on the viability of a Bodoland state, under the stewardship of former Home Secretary GK Pillai, a former Northeast hand, was announced. The findings of this committee are expected to be submitted by November 2014.

The seemingly intractable violence in the BTAD and growing statehood demands beg two questions. How justifiable are the claims for a separate Bodoland? Is the formation of a new state viable? 

Is the Statehood Demand Justifiable? 
The demand for a separate state is being justified on the basis of protecting the indigenous population of the BTAD – this can be contested. Additionally, comparisons are being drawn with Telengana, which is unhelpful.

One of the major problems in the portrayal of the BTAD has to do with the simplification of categorisation. The Bodos have portrayed themselves as the most rightful representatives of the BTAD. The BTC (Bodoland Territorial Council) is predominantly Bodo, as per the provisions of the Bodo Accord of 2003, but the BTAD areas do not have a homogenous demographic profile. In fact, some villages of the BTAD are inhabited by a significantly larger number of non-Bodos than Bodos. Thus, the non-Bodo and Muslim communities feel under-represented at the BTC, and have recorded their displeasure at the inequity in distribution of resources and lack of administrative powers. In addition is the territorial nature of the problem, which creates artificial boundaries in a naturally heterogeneous state and links ethnicity to land, leading to competing claims.

Moving on with the Defence & Security of India

May 20, 2014

In this age of catchy sound-bites, sensational reporting and media trials, public perception of reality is equally, if not more, important than the reality itself. Managing public perception through truthful representation is, therefore, as important as governance.

As reported in a section of the media1, secretaries to the government of India have been asked to furnish their action plans for the next five years. It is a step in the right direction, though it might be a tall order to furnish an action plan for the next five years without the new government revealing its vision and priorities.

Be that as it may, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which accounts for 13-14 per cent of the central government expenditure, if one also takes into account the expenditure on defence pensions, could come under some pressure to prepare an action plan as the outcome of what it does is often intangible, undisclosable, or simply unmeasurable. This is a challenge but it must be met with a view to not simply moving on but also being perceived to be moving on.

Here are a few suggestions for evolving an action plan. First, there are things that need to be done immediately:
  • At the first available opportunity, possibly the joint session of the parliament, the new government should make known its intention of coming out with a white paper on defence by the end of the year, setting out its vision and strategy for defence and security of India. It will be a paradigm shift from the past and demonstrate government’s earnestness to strengthen the country militarily.
  • The paper would have to be improved upon in the next one to two years.
  • The outgoing government had conceded the long-standing demand for one-rank-one-pension (OROP) but the government orders have not been issued so far. There is no going back on it now. Not only should the orders be issued by the time the monsoon session of the parliament starts, it will also have to be made sure that there are no glitches in implementing the orders. This will bring cheers to around two million pensioners.
  • The OROP decision will lead to similar demand being raised by the civilian pensioners. The matter should, therefore, be referred to the seventh Central Pay Commission which has already been set up. This will pre-empt any unrest among the sizeable community of civilian pensioners.
  • To quell the unrest among the services following the sixth Central Pay Commission, government had announced that in future a separate pay commission will be constituted for the armed forces personnel and pensioners. This has not happened, probably because the services themselves had a second thought about it. This is being seen by some as going back on a promise the government had made. The position must be clarified by the government at the earliest to quell any dissatisfaction that might be brewing.

It's time for the U.S. to reset relations with India

Indian Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi gestures while speaking to supporters on Friday after his landslide victory.


India's election and the U.S.: Now that's awkward
Via @LATimes: The U.S. and India can have healthy relations without being strategic partners
Truth is, U.S.-India relations have suffered for decades

The outcome of India's national election — a resounding triumph for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party — has put the United States in an awkward position.

The BJP's Narendra Modi will soon be India's prime minister. In 2005, Washington revoked his U.S. visa, citing a law banning visits by foreign officials responsible for egregious violations of religious freedom. Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state, had been accused of not doing enough to stop deadly communal riots in 2002 that left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.

Washington would be silly to spurn the world's largest democracy, and soon its most populous nation.- 

Predictably, Washington and New Delhi are abuzz about the implications of the BJP's victory for the U.S.-India relationship, which has suffered in recent months.

Such talk, however, misses a larger point. Despite much giddy rhetoric about a deeper partnership in recent years, U.S.-India relations have suffered for decades — far beyond last December, when the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade, a New York-based Indian diplomat, plunged relations into deep crisis.

US Conventional Power and Nuclear Asia

To stop allies in Asia from going nuclear, the U.S. needs to shore up its conventional military power.
May 20, 2014

Creak. Short-notice, long-distance travel is a great and a terrible thing. My back is reminding me of that, and of some geographic facts. Basic facts, such as: North America is wide; the Pacific Ocean is broad, and largely empty; Asia is tall north to south, its offshore terrain complex and fascinating.

While they appear petite on the world map, moreover, peripheral seas like the South China Sea, an anteroom to both the Pacific and Indian oceans, occupy enormous geographic space in their own right. I changed planes in Hong Kong, along the sea’s northern rim. But another three-and-a-half-hour flight lay ahead before I alighted in Changi Airport, Singapore.

Thirty-six hours, all told, to Singapore from the Naval Diplomat bunker somewhere along the shores of the Narragansett Bay. Big world. It beats me how Robert Kaplan keeps up such a travel schedule year in, year out.

But enough of the geography lesson. As my last column reported, I was summoned to the city-state last week on a hyper-clandestine mission to spread disinformation about ballistic-missile submarines among our Chinese friends. Mission accomplished!!

Tell no one. In all seriousness, our workshop explored how to preserve and defend strategic stability as Asia and the world enter a second nuclear age. This new age is populated by nuclear oldtimers such as the United States, Russia, and France, relative newcomers such as India and Pakistan, and nuclear oldtimers inventing their arsenals anew, such as China.

That portends an end to bipolar, relatively stable, predictable deterrence. A kaleidoscope is a better metaphor. More nuclear-weapon states means more rivals to deter. Some nuclear-weapon states are bulking up and configuring their arsenals. Others are pursuing arms reductions. Virtually invisible, omnipotent SSBN fleets, consequently, represent a big part of second-nuclear-age strategy. Oldtimers have them; newcomers want them.

Thais Must Choose Ballots Over Bullets

MAY 20, 2014

It's time for Thailand to make a decision: the ballot or the bullet?

This is an easy question for democracies around the globe, but a bewilderingly hard one for a nation that's become less about the aspirations of Thais than those of Thaksin Shinawatra and the royalist elites hellbent on punishing him. Thailand has experienced at least three coups over the former prime minister who fled in 2008 to avoid jail on corruption charges. The first, in September 2006, ousted the billionaire from office. The second came May 7 when an "independent" court sacked Thaksin's prime-minister sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The latest arguably came today, as Thailand’s army assumed control over security nationwide on an emergency basis.

"Martial law is not a coup," was the statement playing on an endless loop today on Channel 5, which is owned by the Thai army. It brings to mind the old witticism that you should never believe something until it's been officially denied. Of course this is another coup of sorts, and an oddly unnecessary one. The government is still in place, albeit weakened, and officials are working on holding another election.

Why now? What we saw today was an official declaration of war on theThaksin family, damn the consequences. And those costs are growing exponentially. It's impossible to calculate how much damage this political crisis is doing to the economy and the poverty rate, but $15 billion is a good starting point. That's the Oxford Economics estimate for how much in domestic and foreign investment plans are being held up by the current stalemate -- a number that will be much larger six months to a year from now.

The army acted a day after data showed gross domestic product shrank 0.6 percent in the first three months of 2014. Thai production and tourism have been hurt exponentially by unrest that began in November against Yingluck’s government. But this action will only exacerbate the economic fallout as automakers, apparel companies and beach goers write off Thailand. The Philippines and Indonesia never looked better to multinational companies, who currently employ tens of thousands of Thais.

Look, Thaksin is a thug and the corruption case against him probably just scratched the surface of his 2001-2006 tenure. But Thais must own this simple fact: Thaksin is less the problem than the lack of governing institutions to deal with rogue leaders while in office and afterward.

There is no military solution to Thaksin, as the last eight years of political limbo prove. Every time soldiers step up to restore order in the short run, they set back Thai democracy in the long run. No matter how distasteful Thaksin and his ilk may be, the way to get rid of them is at the ballot box. In trying to destroy him in other ways, protesters are also steadily destroying the credibility of the courts, trampling on human rights, driving the nation to the verge of civil war and putting Thailand Inc. out of business. The only way out of this is free and fair elections and respect for the outcome. The same goes for the freedom to talk about anything, including, with all due respect, the role of the monarchy.

Pakistan Seeks Chinese Drones?

A new report suggests China may sell Pakistan armed drones. Indeed, it’d be surprising if it didn’t.
May 20, 2014

A new report says that Pakistan may be seeking Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

According to a report in the most recent edition of the National Journal, Pakistan has recently unveiled drones that some believe are derived from Chinese drones.

“Already, Pakistan has remote-piloted aircraft,” the report notes. “Islamabad uses surveillance drones to provide the military with a real-time picture of its restive border areas or counterterrorism operations. Pakistan unveiled two new drones in November: Burraq, named after the winged horse from the heavens that transported Islamic prophets, and Shahpar.”

The National Journal report noted that Pakistan had claimed that both drones were domestically built and that neither would be armed. However, the report also points out, citing defense analysts, that the drones bear a close resemblance to the Chinese-made Rainbow CH-3. The Rainbow CH-3 is able to launch missiles.

Pakistan’s desire to acquire armed drones is no secret. It has urged the U.S. to sell it armed drones for years, which Washington has refused to do. The U.S. keeps a tight lock on the export of its armed drones. According to the National Journal report, only the United Kingdom has been sold U.S. armed drones although certain other close U.S. allies—including France and Italy—may soon also fly American drones.

Israel also has armed drones but would be unlikely to export them to Pakistan given U.S. opposition and the fact that Islamabad is a Muslim country that has ties to some of Tel Aviv’s rivals in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East.

Islamabad’s need for such drones is also clear. Pakistan’s military would almost certainly use the drones to target inward-focused terrorists operating in Pakistan’s far western region. It has been widely reported that the United States has, at times at least, aided in this effort by using its own drones to eliminate targets at the behest of the Pakistani military.

Having its own armed drones would allow Pakistan to intensify this effort, especially given the strong reluctance on the military’s part to execute a larger counterterrorism operation in the tribal areas where most inward-focused terrorists are believed to be taking refuge. Furthermore, Pakistan could use drones in cross-border operations against Afghanistan where some of the Pakistani terrorists could conceivably find sanctuary in the future should they be driven out of the tribal areas by Pakistan’s military.

Get Ready World: China and Russia Are Getting Closer

Putin is heading to the Middle Kingdom. Will the visit be a game changer in Sino-Russian relations?
May 20, 2014

Whenever Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with his Chinese counterparts, there is always dramatic talk about the intensifying special relationship between the two countries and the enunciation of bold goals to double trade and further expand security, political and diplomatic ties. There is just as often a noticeable lag between the rhetoric of summits and what is actually achieved. Of course, both countries have moved closer together in recent years, but Moscow and Beijing have also traditionally hedged their relations with each other. China, of course, does not want to damage its much more lucrative ties with the West by joining Russia on a bold anti-Western crusade, while Russia is fearful of being drawn into the Chinese orbit and eventually reduced to the position of Beijing's junior partner.

Has the Ukraine crisis, however, changed the dynamic of the Sino-Russian relationship? If Russia's traditional "European vector" is now likely to be compromised—inhibiting further trade and investment—and if relations with the United States are more likely to be characterized by a "cold peace" rather than a reset for strategic partnership, is Putin now coming to Beijing as a supplicant, anxious to show that he is not isolated by Western pressure and has options? Or is he planning to offer the Chinese the vision of a new world order where the two great powers of Eurasia can, in concert, work to rewrite many of the rules of the international order laid down by the Euro-Atlantic world?

When president Xi Jinping welcomes Putin on his return to the Middle Kingdom this week, we will have a better idea as to how to answer these questions. In particular, outside observers should consider utilizing the following checklist:

1. Is the long-awaited Russia-China natural gas deal—ten years in the making—finally consummated on this trip? Tantalizing announcements continue to declare that the deal is nearly finalized and almost ready—but the sticking points remain price and quantity. If the deal is announced, pay close attention to the price. Is it a neat 50/50 compromise between Gazprom holding out for a near-European level price and China's wish to pay rock-bottom prices? Is China willing to give on price in order to lock in a longer-term guaranteed supply of gas? In particular, has Xi decided that it is worth it for China, as a sign of goodwill to Moscow, to pay a higher-than-preferred price for Russian gas—in order to significantly reorient Russian natural gas markets away from Europe—and to ease Russia into greater dependence on the Chinese market?

China's South China Sea Play: The End of Beijing's "Peaceful Rise"?

May 19, 2014

Over the last decade, China has made every effort to persuade the world that it has been rising peacefully. The term “peaceful rise” was first employed as early as 2003, when Zheng Bijian, the then Vice Principal of the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China delivered a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia. It was then used by Chinese leaders, such as Premier Wen Jiabao, in various international relations contexts.

The main principles of China’s “peaceful rise” theory, which was replaced by “peaceful development” since 2004, are that China will not seek hegemony, its economic and military rise will not pose threats to regional and international peace and stability, and other countries will benefit from China’s growing power and influence. In order for this vision to materialize, Beijing values the role of soft power and contends that promoting good relations with neighboring countries will enhance rather than undermine its comprehensive national power. As such, the peaceful rise thesis emphasizes a cooperative approach towards China’s territorial disputes, including various maritime disputes in the seas around China.

One reason for the emergence of the peaceful rise theory is to counter those who see China as a threat. Speaking broadly, the “China threat theory” argues that, Beijing’s sustained economic growth will enable it to invest in military expansion and modernization. China’s rising power capabilities will shift the regional and international balance of power in it’s favor, threatening the interests and national security of other states. Many in China believe that, this theory is being cultivated by the U.S. as a part of a strategy to contain Beijing’s rise.

Events in the Asia-Pacific since 2007, however, have proven that the China threat theory has been unintentionally cultivated by China itself, as Beijing has been taking an increasingly aggressive approach towards various neighboring countries. Chinese maritime authority vessels have been active in enforcing Beijing’s territorial claims in the East China Sea (EAS) and South China Sea (SCS). They have captured and attacked Southeast Asian fishing ships in their traditional fishing waters, harassed U.S. naval vessels when they operate in the waters in the EAS and SCS, and brutally intervened in incidents in which Chinese fishing vessels were inspected by foreign authorities accused of illegal fishing activities.

China's Big Bargaining Chip Against Gazprom

May. 18 2014 17:58

When President Vladimir Putin arrives in China on Tuesday, he will be in a hard bargaining position, given ongoing tension on Russia's western front.

Diplomatic exchanges between Russia and China have been increasing in substance over the past several years. Already pundits are speculating about how likely it is that a pricing agreement will be reached on the sidelines of the upcoming Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia Summit in Shanghai. China's heavily regulated domestic market means that Russia's making even a modest profit from natural gas export will be difficult.

China's energy demand is growing substantially and will continue to do so. Natural gas is a core growth component of its energy mix, although coal will likely remain dominant for the next 10 years. Currently coal is used for 80 percent of China's electricity and 92 percent of its heating.

Up until now, the predominant sticking point has been the low prices that make even Russian gas uneconomical to transport to China for sale. Interestingly, conflicts in Ukraine come at a very convenient time for China, which will make it possible for China to exact a more favorable energy deal.

Taking into account that Russian natural gas export only brings 30 percent of the overall oil and gas revenues to the federal budget, these contracts are ultimately more political in nature than economic. At the same time, however, it is unlikely that Gazprom will operate at a loss given increasing extraction and development costs coupled with increased investment programs.

But China may have an opportunity to leverage its geopolitical position to provide an incentive for Russia. The markets in the Asia-Pacific region are ripe for a new major exporter. This struggle for market share is likely to evolve around dual poles of Russia and Australia and their respective energy companies' presence in the region. Russia has a particularly advantageous position, given that traditional allies in the region have not tapped their own reserves.

There is a recognizable potential for China to utilize this market opening in negotiations with Russia to help reduce the price of imported natural gas. This is possible through China's ability to help liquefy Russian natural gas for export to southeast Asia. China is a huge market for Russia's natural gas, but it is not likely to be a profitable one.

Joe Parson is a freelance international energy relations analyst and founder of AnalyticalForecasting.com

Is China the Fastest Rising Power in History?


China is rising; but how far, and how fast? After the release of projections based on new World Bank data showing that China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest national economy, a debate has quickly ensued, with some China-watchers dismissing the new figures as an “accounting exercise” and others calling the revised data a “wake-up call.” But the hue and cry obscures a more fundamental question: whether the scale and speed of China’s ascendance is truly unique, or whether it resembles the emergence of earlier powers. China, it turns out, scores moderately on the first metric, and very highly on the second.

Although new powers have emerged for millennia — think Athens after the Greek victory over Persia in 479 B.C. and Rome in 264 B.C. at the start of its wars with Carthage — extensive data measuring the scale and speed of a nation’s rise only extend from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. During this period, five states have emerged as global powers:
  • The United States, circa 1870: Having recovered from a devastating civil war, it entered a period of rapid industrial growth and overseas expansion.
  • Germany, circa 1870: Otto von Bismarck defeated France and established a unified nation.
  • The Soviet Union, circa 1945: The USSR grew into a superpower in the aftermath of World War II.
  • Japan, circa 1960: A high-growth era dawned which took Japan to the commanding heights of the global economy.
  • China, circa 1982: Its rise began after the ruling Communist Party completed its sixth five-year plan, a document the party still uses to help guide the economy, inaugurating a new era of economic reform and opening to foreign trade.

Of course, no country’s ascent had a single, undisputed starting point. But cutoffs are necessary to gauge a rise or a fall, and the above inflection points are apt candidates. Here’s how China’s shares of global GDP, trade, and military spending compare to that of the other four powers, 30 years into their respective ascents (click any image below to enlarge):

ShotsFired in U.S.-China Cyberwar


The Justice Department’s indictment of Chinese military officers for cyber espionage Monday was billed as a law enforcement matter, but the high-profile rollout shows the Obama administration wanted to admonish China publicly.

The Justice Department may not have meant to start another battle with China at the worst possible time, but that’s what it has done. Just as U.S.-China relations have hit a low point, for the first time ever the United States is charging Chinese government officials with conducting cyber espionage against private American companies.

Flanked by federal prosecutors and a member of the FBI at a podium Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the indictment of five officers in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for “serious cyber security breaches against six American victim entities.” The companies—Westinghouse, Alcoa, U.S. Steel Corp., the United Steel Workers Union, Allegheny Technologies, and SolarWorld—were targeted for “no other reason than to advantage state owned companies and other business interests in China,” he said.

In response to the Chinese government’s public challenge to the U.S. “to provide hard evidence of their hacking that could stands up in court,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin named the clandestine military hacker outfit accused of masterminding the spying operation, Unit 61398. Carlin, who works in the Justice Department’s national security division, then made a statement that seemed to be a challenge of its own to the Chinese: “For the first time,” he said, “we are exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards used in Shanghai.”

The Chinese government reacted swiftly, calling the charges “extremely absurd” and canceling the U.S.-China working group on cyber security that was begun in the context of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, co-run by the State and Treasury Departments. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she hoped the next meeting of the S&ED would proceed as planned in July but that there was no certainty.

A Vote for Ukrainian Freedom


KIEV, Ukraine — Holding an election amid threats of invasion and sabotage by fifth-column separatists is the most severe test a democracy can endure. But as President Abraham Lincoln said, facing re-election in 1864 while America’s Civil War still raged, “We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone, a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

Like Lincoln, we Ukrainians are resolved to go to the polls to choose a new president, in defiance of every threat. We will not grant victory to those who would discredit and dismember our country by allowing the May 25 vote to be canceled. Our election must go ahead if only to prove that the 100 and more men and women who died for our liberty in the protests around Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, did not die in vain.

We will brave every obstacle to vote, for we are determined to confound President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to transform our democratic country into a Russian vassal state.

No one should doubt that Mr. Putin’s primary aim is to hollow out our democracy. But Americans, and free people everywhere, must not be deceived by Russia’s aggression, or by Mr. Putin’s current peace offensive.

The separatist cause fomented by Russia would never win on its merits in any free and fair vote of Ukrainians, as a recent Pew Research Center poll has confirmed. Russia’s separatist mafia can win only sham elections of the type that Mr. Putin has imposed on Russia since he came to power 14 years ago, and which he recently forced upon our fellow citizens, now hostages, in Crimea.

The lie Mr. Putin is peddling is that Slavs constitute a special culture that requires the rule of a strong man, and that European and democratic ideals, and the tolerance of minorities that comes with them, are antipathetic to that culture. The best possible rebuke to that falsehood is a successful Ukrainian democracy linked to Europe.

Ukraine’s liberty is a mortal threat to the authoritarian, state-capitalist system that Mr. Putin has unleashed on Russia’s citizens. If Ukrainians, who are also Slavs, can build an open society and a free economy, as we are determined to do, then ordinary Russians may recognize the scale of the liberties and the economic opportunities that have been stolen from them under Mr. Putin’s misrule.

Of course, Ukrainians’ trust in their government has been shattered by the growing realization of former President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s corruption, and of his stealthy collaboration with Russia in undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. But our trust in one another has never been higher.

The spirit of resistance has kindled a new national consciousness across the country, east and west, north and south. It is this spirit, not one of vengeance, that we must keep alive in the days ahead.

If we do, Ukrainians will secure the democracy and the European future to which they have shown such extraordinary devotion. We can eliminate corruption and cut down the bureaucratic maze that stifles the entrepreneurial spirit of our people. We can embrace a modern educational system, not the hidebound Soviet-style ways that still prevail in too many of our classrooms.

We know that we must man the barricades of freedom ourselves if Ukraine is to remain free. But there is much that America and Europe can do to help, short of sending soldiers to fight. As Winston Churchill wrote to Franklin D. Roosevelt during the darkest months of World War II, when Britain stood alone against Nazism: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” The consequences of allowing Ukraine to be plundered and divided in the name of Mr. Putin’s imperial ambitions are too dire to contemplate.

Ukrainians have battled for freedom, and now we are poised to risk everything we hold dear in order to vote for it. Give us the support, material and moral, that we need so that we can achieve the just and open democracy that is America’s greatest bequest to the world.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, is a candidate in this month’s presidential election in Ukraine.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on May 19, 2014, in The International New York Times. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe

Obama’s visit to Japan: strategic significance


May 20, 2014

President Barak Obama’s state visit to Japan, the first stop of his Asia tour, holds significant implications for the East Asian theater. In the backdrop of mounting criticism related to the Syrian and Crimean crises, Obama’s objective was to showcase the US commitment towards Asia and infuse energy to the pivot/rebalancing strategy. Unlike the February 2013 Obama-Abe summit in Washington where Obama avoided making any direct reference to the contested islands, this time the American President expressed “strong concern” with regard to the heightened tensions in the East China Sea. The joint statement underscored that US has “deployed its most advanced military assets to Japan and provides all necessary capabilities to meet its commitments under the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. These commitments extend to all the territories under the administration of Japan, including the Senkaku Islands”1 . It is important to note that there is no shift in US policy. While US refrains from taking a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, they recognise the islands are under the administration of Japan and fall within the scope of Article 5 of the security treaty obligations. President Obama reiterated Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s comments on opposing any unilateral or coercive action undermining Japan’s administrative control of the Senkaku islands. This is reassuring for Japan particularly when a school of thought is emerging in US arguing that it should not get involved in Japan’s conflict with China.

The Chinese expressed concern over the joint statement and articulated that the US-Japan Security Treaty is a product of the Cold War era2 . China maintained that Obama should “stick to its commitment of taking no sides in relevant territorial disputes”3 . Chinese scholars often argue that Japan fabricates the ‘China threat’ theory to justify Abe’s calculated moves towards making Japan a “normal country”. China argues that the right wing orientation of Abe reflects in his approach towards history, Yasukuni Shrine, initiatives to change the pacifist orientation of the constitution, and the recent shifts in security policy.

Prime Minister Abe is eager to consolidate Japan’s position in the fast evolving regional security architecture by strengthening the security alliance with the US, which is expected to serve the goal of managing a rising China. This summit was an opportunity for Abe to erase faultlines, especially after his December visit to the Yasukuni shrine which displeased his most important ally. Japan’s takeaway from this summit was that Abe for the first time managed to get a US President clearly articulate American position on one of the security hotspots in the region- the fiercely contested sovereignty claims over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Obama’s utmost priority is securing market access and the much debated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiation, the economic pillar of his rebalancing policy, to reach an agreement. However, things did not unfold to that effect. TPP free trade initiative continued to navigate through difficult negotiations on tariff barriers.

Differences over the issue of elimination of tariff barriers between the US and Japan have delayed the TPP negotiations. While Japan is keen on protecting its sensitive sectors such as rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar, US is firm on the issue of elimination of agricultural tariffs. The US is keen on Japan making substantial tariff reduction related to beef imports. During bilateral discussions to address the unresolved issues, reduction of the existing tariff rate of 38.5 percent is fiercely debated. Meanwhile, Japan decided to ease tariff on frozen beef to 19.5 percent within 18 years in its economic partnership agreement with Australia. Abe cannot afford major reduction in the tariff since it would affect the cattle farmers. With regard to pork, there is a debate over the gate price system. The US stresses on reducing the existing 4.3 percent tariff on pork. The influential farm lobby in Japan, the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu) registered strong protest fighting the trade liberalisation arguing that the Japanese farming industry should not be “victimized for the sake of the Japan-U.S. alliance” or for the benefit of the US with influx of cheaper imports.